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July 29, 2022

King Joins Bipartisan Bill To Grow Mental Health Care Workforce in Rural America

The Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act incentivizes health care professionals by forgiving student loans for service in underserved areas

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) has joined bipartisan legislation that would repay up to $250,000 in eligible student loans for mental health professionals who work in underserved areas. The Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act, led by Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), would encourage careers in mental health services and incentivize these professionals to work in underserved areas like those across rural Maine. King has made addressing the mental health epidemic one of his top priorities in Washington – laying out the effects of the crisis in a recent op-ed, and backing the bipartisan Safer Communities Act which made historic investments in youth mental health services.

“As families across America struggle with the increased burdens of the pandemic, we are also experiencing a secondary mental health epidemic that has devastated our communities. In many areas, especially rural ones like those across Maine, this crisis has only been exacerbated by a serious shortage of mental health services and professionals. We must do more to get dedicated professionals into the mental health field – particularly in rural, undeserved areas,” said Senator King. “The Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act is an important, bipartisan effort to encourage careers in mental health and incentivize these workers to consider supporting the underserved areas who need them the most. Together, we can take on this crisis and provide our loved ones struggling with the help they need, and that starts with commonsense actions like this bill.”

“Northern Light Acadia Hospital thanks Senator King for his support for the Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act.  Northern Light Acadia Hospital along with behavioral health providers throughout Maine are challenged every day to recruit the psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, psychiatric nurse practitioners, licensed clinical social workers, and counselors necessary to care for patients in need of our services,” said Scott Oxley, President of Northern Light Acadia Hospital. “Rural communities in Maine are particularly challenged and this legislation will have significant impact in supporting adults and children in northern and eastern Maine to access behavioral health services close to home.” 

Right now, more than 20% of Maine people and over 120 million Americans live in areas with a shortage of mental health professionals. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) estimates that by 2025, there will be a shortage of over 250,000 mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, mental health and substance abuse social workers, clinical and school psychologists, and school counselors.

The Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act would repay up to $250,000 in eligible student loan repayment for mental health professionals who work in mental health professional shortage areas – up to one-sixth of the individual’s eligible loans for each year of service. This would cover many of Maine’s rural areas who are struggling with a lack of behavioral health services. A full summary of the bill can be found here.

Senator King has worked to address the startling rise in mental health issues from the COVID-19 pandemic. He has pushed for additional resources to address the epidemic, including proposals he highlighted in a recent op-ed for the Bangor Daily News, and historic funding for youth mental health services he backed in the bipartisan Safer Communities ActKing also recently introduced several pieces of legislation to address the crisis, including legislation to require private health insurance to cover three behavioral health care visits each yearsupport social-emotional learning for children, and increase access to mental health resources in schools. He also introduced a bipartisan resolution earlier this month to mark May 5th as National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

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